South Carolina is one of America's weakest gun-law states fueling the "iron pipeline" of weapons elsewhere, the anti-gun violence Brady Center said Wednesday.
Using federal data on the origins of guns recovered nationally in 2008, the Brady group said dealers in states with so-called "weak" gun laws supplied out-of-state guns at more than five times the rate that dealers in the states with "stronger" gun laws did.
The results indicate South Carolina is not shedding its reputation as a gun-buyers' haven, Brady Center senior attorney Daniel Vice said.
"Unfortunately," he said, "in South Carolina it is very easy for dangerous criminals to get deadly weapons."
Brady officials consider South Carolina a weak gun-law state because of the ease of getting firearms over the counter. Among their arguments is that there are no limits here on monthly purchases, and the lack of background checks required at gun shows.
"That's the 'green light' for gun traffickers," Vice said.
The Brady Center's analysis came from ranking the 50 states based on what it said was their overall and per capita contribution to interstate gun-trafficking. The formula covered the per capita rate of crime gun exports and guns taken across state lines and recovered in a crime.
The South led in the analysis, with Mississippi reporting the highest rate of recovered crime gun exports. Next in line were West Virginia, Alabama, Virginia and South Carolina.
The rankings cover data released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives and help illustrate the Brady Center's contention that weak gun law states are providing arms for criminals, especially in the Northeast, where gun laws are stricter, they said.
The figures also mirror the argument raised by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that gun dealers in South Carolina and elsewhere have allowed loose counter sales, helping to put guns in the hands of New York street criminals.
The National Rifle Association was quick to discount the report, saying the Brady organization is using the data to advance a political agenda. Spokeswoman Rachel Parsons also said the group is incorrectly characterizing the tracing data, which was designed more to be a police tool, not a statistical measuring stick.
While other states have clamped down on gun sales, South Carolina's reputation in recent years has been one of expanding access and legal ownership of guns.
In 2006, lawmakers passed a bill that extended legal coverage under the Castle Doctrine, in which residents can use deadly force against intruders to protect themselves and their property. Someone's business or a car in danger of being hijacked became areas covered by the legally recognized defense.
No one has an accurate count of how many guns exist today in South Carolina.